WHEN DRIVING IN BELIZE :
Most Belizeans speak english are very friendly and helpful if you need information.
Always carry a road map .
Gas Stations . Belize has Texaco, Shell and Esso service stations, with a total of around 50 stations in the country. Unleaded gas (premium) is about US$6.65 a U.S. gallon. Leaded is a few cents less, and diesel about a third less. Skilled mechanics are few and far between, although you can get a tire changed almost anywhere. Someone will come out and pump gas for you, and there's no need to tip. Belize gas stations accept Belize or U.S. dollars, and sometimes credit cards.
Miles or Kilometers? Like the U.S., Belize has been slow to accept the metric system. Distances are given in miles, and gas is sold by the U.S. gallon. However, some Japanese-made rental cars have speed and distance shown in kilometers only, a source of confusion on Belize's mile-denominated roads.
Speed Limits . You occasionally see a speed limit sign in Belize, but there is little if any traffic law enforcement. Belize drivers, to be charitable, are not always the best in the world.
Sleeping Policemen . Speed-breaker bumps are used to slow traffic coming into residential areas. In many cases, you'll get no advance warning about the bumps, but expect them as you enter any town or village.
Check Points. Check points are fairly common, but almost always in the same place, so everybody knows where they are. Unlike in some other countries in the region where shaking down gringos in rental cars is a small industry, in Belize you will not be pulled over for phony traffic offenses, and if you are stopped at a checkpoint, which often happens, no one will promote a bribe. Just answer the questions, if any, and you'll be on your way, with a friendly smile and wave from the police. If you're a local driver, you must have insurance, or face the consequences, including possibly some time in jail.
Safety. Traffic accidents are now the number one cause of death in Belize. Belize drivers are often not well-trained, and driving after drinking is unfortunately common. Watch carefully when passing stopped buses — kids may suddenly dart around the bus to cross the road. Outside of settled areas, you may drive for an hour or more and never see another car. Be prepared: Bring water, a flash-light and other basic supplies, and maybe a cell phone, just in case. In a poor country like Belize, anyone driving a car is, ipso facto, wealthy. Don't leave valuables in your car, locked or unlocked. In Belize City, it's best to park in a secured lot, or at least in a well-lit area. Do not pick up hitchhikers, unless you're pretty sure they're okay.
Driving at Night. Driving at night in developing countries is seldom a good idea, but in Belize night driving is easier than elsewhere because there are so few people on the roads after dark. Foxes and snakes, yes; people, no. Still, after dark it's hard to see potholes and topes.
Best Vehicles for Belize . Do you really need four-wheel drive in Belize? On the main thoroughfares such as the Western and Northern Highways, no. In the dry season, even back roads generally are passable without four-wheel drive if you have sufficient road clearance. But four-wheel drive is good insurance, just in case you hit a stretch of soft muck or sand. On long trips in Belize, usually there are a couple of occasions when four-wheel power comes in handy. After a period of heavy rains, some back roads become quagmires. Below is a discription of the road conditons:
The roads in Belize are getting better and better. Sure, there still are sections of washboarded dirt that will shake your fillings out, but more roads are now paved and even the gravel or limestone byways seem to be scraped more frequently. A few roads, such as the Southern Highway and Hummingbird Highway, are very good indeed, among the best in all of Central America and the equal of any rural road in the U.S. or Canada. Not too many years ago the Western Highway was unpaved, the Hummingbird was a nightmare of potholes, the Old Northern Highway was a jungle of tire-stabbing asphalt chunks, the Southern Highway was a mud trap, and not even Belize City had stop lights.
Signage, too, is improving, being better than in most of Mexico or the rest of Central America. Most critical turns and junctions are marked. Many roads have mile markers — though road work on the Southern Highway and elsewhere means many markers are missing. Around Belize City, San Ignacio and elsewhere, new signage helps visitors navigate to key destinations such as the international airport or the Mountain Pine Ridge.
NORTHERN HIGHWAY This 85-mile route is a very good two-lane black-topped from Belize City to Corozal Town and then a few miles to the border with Mexico at Chetumal. The only thing that will slow you down are a few “sleeping policemen” in villages and slow-moving trucks when the sugar cane harvest is going on in late winter through late spring, and a toll-booth at the bridge over New River (BZE 75 cents). There is now a handy by-pass around Orange Walk Town. Your first glimpse of the azure waters of Corozal Bay is a highlight of the end of this route.
Overall Road Condition: Very Good
Paved Section: 100%
Gas Availability: Excellent — there are many gas stations including a few new ones open 24 hours
OLD NORTHERN HIGHWAY If you want to see Altun Ha ruins, you'll have to drive at least part of this 41-mile arc to the east of the New Northern Highway. Under the British, this highway was paved, and at last the Belize government is patching the remaining blacktop. The section south of Maskall village is better than the section north. Most sections are narrow and some are dirt. The 2-mile access road to Altun Ha is now paved.
Overall Road Condition: Fair
Paved Section: 70%
Gas Availability: None
WESTERN HIGHWAY The 78-mile road takes you from Belize City quickly past Hattieville, the Belize Zoo, the capital of Belmopan, the “twin towns” of San Ignacio and Santa Elena and then on the Benque road to the Guatemala border. Just past San Ignacio, you hit “cottage country,” where a number of excellent lodges offer cold beer and a soft bed under quiet Central American skies. The Western Highway is still in pretty good condition, and some sections have been resurfaced. More topes are popping up as the road passes villages. However, the limestone used on this road can be very slick after rains, and there's a big sign warning of the number of deaths on this road in the past 10 years --"240 killed and 1,478 injured."
Overall Road Condition: Very Good
Paved Section: 100%
Gas Availability: Good
HUMMINGBIRD HIGHWAY This 56-mile highway stretches from the Western Highway at Belmopan to Dangriga. The Hummingbird dips and swoops through some of the most beautiful territory in Belize. This was once a very bad road. Now it is in very condition, with only a couple of bridges that are still one-lane. Take a break at the Blue Hole, where a swim in the truly blue water is refreshing or at Five Blues National Park. Technically, the road is called the Hummingbird for only about 33 miles from the Western Highway to the village of Middlesex, and then it is known as the Stann Creek Valley Road, but everybody calls it the Hummingbird all the way.
Overall Road Condition: Excellent
Paved Section: 100%
Gas Availability: Poor — best to gas up at Belmopan or near Dangriga
COASTAL HIGHWAY This 36-mile gravel road, connecting Democracia near Mile 30 of Western Highway with the Stann Creek Valley Road near Melinda, is also known as the Manatee Highway or the “Shortcut.” It does save time on trips to Dangriga or Placencia from Belize City. However, the road is washboarded in places and is dusty in dry weather. During heavy rains, bridges occasionally wash out. It is far less scenic than the Hummingbird. It's easy to lose control of your vehicle on the gravel. In fact, some car rental companies forbid renters to drive the road, and others up the amount you're liable for if you do have an accident.
Overall Road Condition: Fair
Paved Section: 0%
Gas Availability: Poor — gas up in Dangriga or on the Western Highway
SOUTHERN HIGHWAY The Southern Highway, long known as the worst major road in Belize, is now the best road in Belize. It is all paved except for a 9-mile section between Golden Stream and Big Falls. The scenery, save for views of the Maya Mountains at about the halfway point, is unexceptional. Overall Road Condition: Good to Excellent
Paved Section: 91%
Gas Availability: Fair — best to gas up in Dangriga or near PG; in a pinch, there's gas in Independence and on the Placencia peninsula.
BELIZE CITY The roads and streets of Belize City confuse many visitors. Some streets are not signed, and some are little more than narrow, one-way alleys. Streets abruptly terminate at Haulover Creek, and you have to find a bridge to get from one side to the other. Taxis, bicycles and pedestrians dart in and out of traffic. However, things are getting better. New roundabouts on the Northern Highway have improved traffic flow, and new signage has popped up on main routes. Most streets are paved. Belize City is so up-to-date these days it even has a rush hour and traffic jams.
Overall Road Condition: Fair to Good
Paved Section: 95%
Gas Availability: Excellent — modern gas stations have everything that U.S. stations have including convenience stores, except that you don't have to pump your own gas.
Driving allows you opportunity to enjoy a scenic Belize?
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Enjoy your trip to Belize
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Belize is a land of unique contrasts with more to do and see than many countries 10 times it size.
Belize's coast is protected by 185 miles of Barrier Reef studded with hundreds of coral islands, the undiscovered habitat of some of the best diving and sport fishing in the world. The inner coastal waters are shallow and are sheltered by a line of coral reefs, dotted with islets called 'cayes', extending almost the entire length of the country. Belize boasts the 2nd largest barrier reef in the world!
At the centre are lush forests of the Mountain Pine Ridge with caves and Mayan Ruins for exploring, rivers for rafting, and breathtaking waterfalls. The south is a land of true rainforests and jungles with every form of tropical plant, bird, and wildlife, including playful monkeys, talkative parrots, and colorful toucans.
For the outdoor enthusiast and adventure traveler, Belize presents unlimited opportunities. You won't find a lot of big nightclubs, expensive shopping, or fancy restaurants. You will find diving, snorkeling, fishing, hiking, bird watching and exploring nature at its best.